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hitting the gavel September 17 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezra 4:7-23; Psalm 106; Ezra 7:1- 8:14

Overruled!

Sometimes neighbors or relatives make trouble for us. Boundary disputes are common between neighbors. Other times people are hauled into Small Claims Court over frivolous family matters. Wouldn’t it be nice for the judge to say to the plaintiff, your accuser, “Your complaints or lawsuits against the defendant [you] are overruled!”? What does that mean? That basically means a higher authority (the judge in this case) has decided to annul or reverse the claim or judgment of the plaintiff against the defendant. This what God did for Israel, and that is what God sometimes does for us.

Many Israelites were allowed to return to their land by Cyrus, king of Persia. The people of the land were to provide the Jews with the funding they needed for the rebuilding of their temple, and animals for sacrifices to their God. The occupants of the land and their neighbors, however, did not want the Jews to be their neighbors. Because of this they gave the Jews a lot of grief.

First, the Jews were threatened, and so the work on rebuilding Solomon’s temple stopped. Then Haggai and Zechariah prophesied and encouraged the people to repent, return to their work, and rebuild the temple, which they did.

Second, a personal letter was sent to King Darius just after he took the throne. The leaders of the Trans-Euphrates (an area including Judea and Samaria) questioned the legality of the rebuilding project. Darius searched the archives. To their humiliation, he not only found the edict written by King Cyrus but supported it. Israel’s neighbors were told to supply them whatever they needed and then leave them alone so the work will not be hindered.

Third, soon after King Xerxes obtained the throne, the troublesome neighbors launched another accusation against the Jews (Ezra 4:6). We have no record that any action was taken at that time. However, later, under the persuasion of Haman, his chief nobleman, the king was convinced that the Jews were a menace and therefore gave authority to Haman to order their genocide. God, however, was silently at work, providentially protecting His people. Through Esther and Mordecai, the tables were turned back upon Haman and all Jewish enemies.

Twenty –one years later the leaders of the Trans-Euphrates try again to hamper the Jewish settlement. The new king of Persia, Artaxerxes, is informed that the Jews, having completed their temple, are now rebuilding their city. If the Jews establish a foothold in the Trans-Euphrates, they argue, the Jews might become a forceful nation, and the king will have no more tax revenue from their region. So, once again, the work is stopped.

What is Israel's response to their opposition? They get discouraged and fall away from the LORD (Psalm 106 in today's Bible reading may have been composed at this time because of the theme). When opposition and trouble come our way when we are obeying the LORD, we need to be careful to encourage ourselves in the LORD and not fall away.

God is, however, still working on Israel’s behalf. The LORD begins to overrule the will of Israel’s neighbors and King Artaxerxes. He uses Ezra, a priest and teacher of the law of God, to do it. The king is so impressed with his teaching and because God is with him that that he allows Ezra to return to Jerusalem. He even permits willing Jews to leave Babylon to return with him. Eighteen heads of families, 1,496 other Israelite men, 220 Temple servants, and thirty-eight Levitical priests return with Ezra. Ezra is also accompanied by seven of the king’s advisors to go to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and learn God’s laws. In addition, women and children likely accompanied the men, making the total possibly 4,000-5,000 (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p. 667).

Ezra’s official assignment is to appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates and to teach them to live by God’s law. This adds insult to injury for the leaders of the surrounding nations of Israel. Not only are they to help the Jews with supplies they need for worship, but now they will also have to endure the sight of more Jews, be taught God’s law, and live by it or suffer dire consequences. God is overruling their insolence! Later, under the prophet Nehemiah’s leadership, the walls around Jerusalem will also be rebuilt.

Ezra praises God because He put it in the king’s heart to honor the house of God in Jerusalem and to show him favor. King Artaxerxes highly respects the leadership of Ezra. Under his leadership Artaxerxes does not think there will be a rebellion. What is your character like? Is it above reproach, just and fair? Is it consistent? Would the ungodly trust you? Can they see God is with you?

Lessons to Live By

  • God often acts on behalf of His people. He protects them and sometimes even over-rules those in authority so that His will is accomplished.
  • God’s mighty acts in the past give us courage to ask the LORD to defend us today. Do you know Him? (more...)
  • Be godly and trustworthy. God may use you in your society to accomplish His will.

Today’s Bible Memory Verses

Psalm 106:1-4 (NIV)

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise?

Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.

Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them.

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